Medical School Books Should Only Cost You Less Than $1000
In the summer before the beginning of your first year of medical school, your school will send out a list of medical school books that are required or recommended for classes. Most medical students are super prepared. And they will spend a few thousand dollars to buy all the books on the list.
But let me give you an advice: Don’t bother with the list!
Most of the recommended medical school books are huge textbooks that you will not be able to finish even if medical school was extended to six years. Remember, medical school is about drinking a vast amount of information efficiently. You can’t do that with a textbook. Textbooks are dry. Textbooks are big. Textbooks are slow. And textbooks are expensive. If you do need them, you can always borrow them from your school library.
If you refer back to my studying in medical school section, you can find that I did not purchase many books and was still able to do well (better than average) in my classes. My study strategy is less is better. I wanted to purchase a few medical school books as possible and carry as little paper as possible. I am going to provide you a list of books that I thought was essential for doing well.
If I were you, I would also talk to people in the year above you and see what worked for them. I did so and it was helpful.
Medical School Books for First and Second Year
If are you in an allopathic (MD) or osteopathic (DO) school, here are the books you really need.
Atlas of Human Anatomy by Frank H. Netter MD
Obviously, this book is for anatomy. And anatomy is a very, very visual course. This famous book, also known as Netter, will help you learn your anatomy.
My course professor’s slides were actually pretty good. It already had lots of pictures in there. So in the beginning of the semester, I did not use Netter for anatomy and only used the slides provided by my professor. And I did below average on the practicals (which is identifying structures on cadavers). Towards the end of the course, for the last two modules, I really began to use Netter and began to lead my group in dissecting. Then I was honoring those sections and doing higher than average. And this is coming from a guy whose first exposure to anatomy was in medical school.
Pathoma by Husain A. Sattar, MD
From what I read, this guy is a pretty popular teacher. And I can see why. His teaching is concise and clear.
During the first week of my pathology class, I vowed not to read Robbins Pathology, which is a 1464 pages monster. As I say over and over again, it is about being efficient. So what some people do is to use Dr. Goljan’s Rapid Review for Pathology. I looked it over. It is good, but still too much at 656 pages. So I just decided not to read books and to attend lecture using the professor’s slides as my main source. I received my first exam back and did less than average. That was totally unacceptable.
I remember stressing about what to do. And one day, I received an e-mail telling me about Pathoma. It is created as a review for Step 1 board exam. Was it enough for me to know my pathology? I read the reviews and lots of people were vouching for it. Although it is only about 200 pages of outlines, it does come with lectures (audio and visual) so you can really know your stuff. And if you have not guessed by now, I’m totally an outlines type of person because it is efficient. And it was less than $100.
I got it and have not been disappointed with it. My grades afterwards have been higher than average. It is only January 2012 as I write this, still 5 months before my COMLEX exam and I am already doing about average on my Kaplan USMLE practice exams. This is including testing myself on subjects I have not yet learned such as hematology and obstetrics. Physiology and pathology (and funnily, biostatistics which I never took) are my best subjects.
Yes, Pathoma really does work, unlike most medical school books.
First Aid for the USMLE
Everyone and its mothers recommend this book. Everyone and its mother use this book. And they are right to do so because it covers almost everything that will be tested for the first board exam (USMLE or COMLEX) — in outline format.
Because it is in outline format, unless you are really good at reading outlines and are willing to look up extra information to clarify the outlined concepts, this will not be your main resource for learning the materials. Instead, you will use it to review the materials you have already learned.
Hence, this book is not needed until the second year when you prepare for USMLE or COMLEX. If you get it in the first year, you can use it to follow along with your classes, but most likely than not, you will not understand the materials yet. Towards the second year, you should use this book as you go through your classes. The earlier you start with this in the second year, the less stressful you will be when you prepare for the USMLE or COMLEX.
Optional, but Recommended Books
Success in Medical School: Book Review – Read my review of Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years to find out if and how the book will guide you to become successful for the first two years of medical school.
The books mentioned above are pretty much all you need as a medical student for your first two years of medical school. However, if you are in an osteopathic (DO) school, keep reading further.
Medical School Books for First and Second Year (Osteopathic Medical Students)
As an osteopathic student, we have another class that is very visual – Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). In fact, some people in my class (including myself) consider OMT to be anatomy #2. So there are the books you will need:
Thieme Atlas of Anatomy – General Anatomy and Musculoskeletal System
This is the Netter for OMT, which is very big on insertions and origins. The book is really good letting you visualize each individual muscle. Therefore, you can better understand how the counterstrain or muscle energy is affecting the muscle.
The main reason I use this book is to memorize the muscle origins, insertions, actions, and innervations, which are all tested on my examinations. Last year, my first year, I did not bother with Thieme and I did below average. And this year, by spending some time with Thieme, I did WAY above average.
The Pocket Manual of OMT
There are a lot of OMT techniques and I simply cannot remember them all. The main use for this book is as a quick reference to jolt your memory. It is a small book so it should fit in the white coat’s pocket (hence the name, pocket manual). I do make good use out of the book before my practical examinations. And I expect I will be whipping this book out of my pocket more often as a third year on clinical rotations. Snap!
OMT Review by Robert G. Savarese, DO
There is not too much to say about this book except that almost all students use this to prepare for the OMT section of COMLEX. This is the go-to book when it comes to preparing for the OMT section of COMLEX. It is that good.
If you could only pick one book from all the OMT medical school books, get this book.
The book is easy to read and most important of all, it comes with practice questions and answers with explanations. I used it throughout the second year and it was very helpful. I should have used it throughout the first year as well. Unlike the First Aid mentioned above, this book is not in outline forms and explains the subject clearly.
Medical School Books for Third and Fourth Year
The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match
If you are a medical student, get this book now! Click on the following link to find out why The Successful Match: 200 Rules to Succeed in the Residency Match is a required book. It will bring you to a detailed review.
Optional, but Recommended Books
Success on the Wards: Book Review – Read my review of Success on the Wards: 250 Rules for Clerkship Success to find out if and how the book will guide you to become the best medical student for the clinical years.
Clinician’s Guide to Laboratory Medicine: Book Review – Find out why Clinician’s Guide to Laboratory Medicine is a book I highly recommend for students in rotations. See how it can help you become good … no … rather, an expert in interpreting any type of lab values.
There you have it. These are the medical school books that I have used. In total, you should not be spending too much money on them — maybe in total $300 or $400.
If you want to save money, you could get the older editions, especially for Netters and Thieme. Anatomy should not be changing so much from one year to the next.